Since the conflict in Syria escalated in March 2012, over 120,000 Syrians have fled their country and settled in Iraq. Approximately 69,000 are registered within Domiz camp in Kurdistan, of which an estimated 35,000 are currently residing in the camp. About 40% of the refugee population is under the age of 18. At the moment, the only options for children lie in school or the one and only child friendly space, set up by ACTED.
In the Domiz refugee camp, the continuous influx of new refugee arrivals now stands at more than 900 individuals a day. The camp is now overcrowded, many families are sharing tents with their relatives, and the services available to the refugees in the camp are highly overstretched. Children are some of the most affected by the conflict as they often lose their family and friends and their education is interrupted, leaving many of them in need of psychosocial support and a sense of normality. ACTED’s Child Friendly Space was supposed to accommodate up to 250 children, but they now have over 700 children on a weekly basis. The space is not large enough, lacks supplies and children can only come once a week or even less frequently, which does not allow for creation of routine and for proper psychosocial follow up and support.
ACTED aims to address the urgent needs of children by building a second child friendly space, together with the first youth friendly space in the camp, child protection and emergency protection units that will serve as awareness raising tools for child protection issues as well as for a referral system, with support from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department.
Involving the community is a necessity
Construction of the spaces started in mid-March, and the buildings could already be seen from afar. ACTED is implementing the project together with the community, employing over 20 skilled Syrian refugees as builders, teachers and social workers, and is also involving the wider community as volunteers and security guards. ACTED is also planning to involve the elderly in the scheme for activities such as story-telling and other cultural programs as there is currently no programing for older people in the camp.
The site is getting busier by the day, and the constructors were even working during the holidays to ensure that the centers will be open ahead of schedule. Children and families are already coming and offering their help and signing up children for the program. ACTED has also been able to outsource extra materials from local donors such as toys, educational material and other equipment. Our protection specialist is now holding the trainings on child protection for the Syrian staff as well as supporting the relevant authorities and other stakeholders in the camp who are implementing child protection activities.
The centers are planned to accommodate around 400 children and youth and should be opening the second week of April where all stakeholders together with Syrian children and the families will be invited.
Although this is a step in the right direction towards addressing some of the many protection issues in the camp, it still will not be enough. Given the continuous influx and high numbers of Syrian refugee families, ACTED believes that Domiz needs more child and youth friendly spaces, as well as having more elderly and special needs people programming.